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MU Veterans Center helps transition from military to college

Ryan Gill served in the U.S. Army in both Iraq and Haiti. Coming back to his home state in 2012, though, turned out to be a challenge.

“It’s one of the most daunting tasks,” Gill, the president of Mizzou Student Veterans Association said, “and it’s surprising to some, to think that these individuals who have gone off to combat, and war zones and experienced all sorts of things.”

At 24 years old, the native of the state’s boot heel was older than most college students. But Mizzou had a resource unlike other colleges he tried attending.

“It’s all run out of the Veteran’s Center here on campus, and Carol Fleisher’s our director,” Gill said. “She does an incredible job. She’s really our rock.”

In 2006, Carol Fleisher worked in the admissions office, helping students get residency in Missouri, along with helping veterans receive benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. Between the Montgomery GI Bill and the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Fleisher said managing the educational benefits using those large bills took most of her time, along with her regular job duties.

“You can’t attend even to the GI Bill, much less to an individual veteran,” Fleisher said. “The problem was is that I just saw a need for something more than just a desk and two jobs.”

That year, then-Chancellor Brady Deaton put together a group with Fleisher to research what Mizzou had to offer veterans, and what other schools did for both active and former service members. Fleisher said only two schools had full-fledged resource centers for veterans at that time.

In 2007, MU launched its own, the MU Veterans Center. Fleisher is its full-time director, and has a staff of seven people, including six veterans, to handle student veteran benefits.

Fleisher said the center also offers veterans a place to be around others with common experiences, something that eases the transition from military to civilian life.

“Not all of them, but a good many of them will have, “Did I make the right decision? Should I have gotten out of the military?” Fleisher said

Mizzou enrolls 369 student veterans, along with 350 dependents of veterans. An additional 100 students have used all of the benefits given through the GI Bills, Fleisher said.

The Military Times ranked Mizzou 19th on its list of best four-year schools for service members. Park University and Columbia College rank eighth and ninth on the list respectively for “online and nontraditional schools.”

“They’ve created an environment where veterans are able to succeed in,” Gill said. “And they streamline so many processes for us, or the processes that take us to graduation, coming out of active duty military or guard or whatever component you came from in the Department of Defense.”

(Update, 11/12, 2:08 p.m.: The story now contains a link to the Military Times’ rankings for veteran-friendly schools. It also adds Park University and Columbia College’s place on the publication’s list for online and nontraditional schools.)

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